Martin Scorsese and his production company, Sikelia Productions, are being taken to court for allegedly reneging on a $1 million deal to executive produce a World War II movie.
U.K.-based production company Op-Fortitude, created to make the film, alleges that Scorsese accepted a $500,000 initial payment to personally assemble an all-star cast for Operation: Fortitude and refused to return the money after doing no work for over a year. The film was written and is set to be produced by Simon Afram.
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“Mr. Scorsese has done nothing whatsoever in furtherance of production of the Picture, and has been completely non-responsive to Op-Fortitude’s repeated attempts to reach him and secure the fulfillment of his obligations,” reads the complaint filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Op-Fortitude and LBI Entertainment, which represented Scorsese and Sikelia, struck a deal in 2021 for the director to handle casting, production and postproduction. The production company was assured that a meeting with Scorsese would be arranged and that he would “immediately being reaching out personally to potential A-list directors and cast members,” the suit says. It was allegedly understood that the deal with Sikelia was for Scorsese to be directly involved in the movie, and not his managers, since LBI and Op-Fortitude had already entered into a separate deal in 2020 for other services related to the film.
The suit alleges LBI continued to string Op-Fortitude along that Scorsese would eventually start working on the movie and urged it not to terminate the deal. After months of no communication or indication that Scorsese intended to produce the film, a representative for Op-Fortitude met with LBI manager Charles Pacheco, who assured him that the deal could be cancelled and the $500,000 upfront payment returned if there was no movement on the project by the end of the year, the complaint claims.
But when the deal was formally terminated in March, Scorsese and Sikelia allegedly claimed that Op-Fortitude wasn’t entitled to cancel the contract or receive a return of its deposit.
“Although more than fifteen months have passed since the Agreement was signed, Mr. Scorsese has not performed any work that falls within any of the three categories of services contemplated by the Agreement—casting, production and post-production,” writes John Fowler, a lawyer for Op-Fortitude, in the complaint. “Nor has he performed any other type of work on the project.”
Op-Fortitude alleges breach of contract, among other claims, and seeks punitive damages. It says it hasn’t assembled a cast and has lost out on financing because of Scorsese allegedly turning his back on the deal to produce the movie, which explores a “strategic mission that was pivotal to the course of World War II,” according to the complaint.
Scorsese, LBI and Sikelia Productions, which produced The Wolf of Wall Street, Killers of the Flower Moon and Boardwalk Empire, didn’t immediately return requests for comment. Fowler says his client was “left with no other option” but to sue “given the lack of engagement” from the director.
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